How will the UK leaving the EU affect employment in the UK?

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It has now been over two years since Britain voted to leave the EU, in one of the most controversial and talked about political moves in history. But, despite the exit talks dominating the headlines, are we really any closer to understanding the impact that Brexit will have on our workforce?

Latest official data shows that net EU migration has fallen by 95% in the last year, resulting in fewer EU workers to fill essential roles, and this reduction has been reflected in numerous reports across different sectors and industries.

According to the annual summer survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the median number of applicants per role has reduced dramatically since Summer 2017 in all skill levels; with low skilled dropping from 24 down to 20, medium skilled from 19 to 10 and high skilled from 8 to 6. In the same survey, employers with vacancies are reporting that roles are harder to fill, with 10% more employers saying that they find it difficult to find the right applicant this year than in 2017. The CIPD recommends that firms should invest in skill development and better line management to raise workplace productivity in the wake of lower labour supply. 

But while low labour supply might signal a pay boost for lower paid roles, it may also create a shortage of workers for particular industries. Transport, IT and construction have long been reliant on non-UK workers to fill vacancies, and the lack of applicants for roles in the health industry has already prompted the NHS to warn that a deficiency of EU workers could put patient safety at risk.

Businesses should focus on sourcing and retaining high quality talent, by continuing to carry out comprehensive pre-employment screening and right to work checks, to ensure that that all workers are not only qualified and experienced for the role, but also comply with the existing legislation around non-UK workers. The £20,000 fine per illegal worker currently remains in place.

A spokesman for the UK government said "After we leave the EU, the UK will continue to be the open country it has always been. We will have in place an immigration system that delivers control over who comes to the UK, but that welcomes the brightest and best who want to work hard and contribute."

While speculation around the true cost of Brexit is rife, we recommend that businesses stay compliant and diligent in all areas of employment screening practices, and act on legislative changes as they happen, to mitigate risk, remain compliant and prevent problems further down the line.